8 CultureShock! China
unfortunately, their place was
often alongside a Shang king
or nobleman in his final resting
place—the Shang engaged in
regular human sacrifice, along
the lines of the famous terracotta
army in Xi’an, though without the terracotta involved.
After a little more than 500 years, the Shang’s highly
organised armies and their fancy horse-drawn chariots failed
them, and they were conquered from the outside by the
Zhou in 1046 BC.
Zhou (1046–221 BC)
Stretching from 1046 to 256 BC with two distinct periods—the
Spring & Autumn Period and the Warring States—the Zhou
can be described as a study in extremes, between strict rule
and harsh conditions and an unprecedented flourishing of
philosophies and schools of thought that still influence the
average man on the street today.
Actually the most powerful principality among many rather
than the ruling power of a united empire, the Zhou served as
a regional hegemon. The Zhou state’s location in the centre
of all the others gave rise to a turn of phrase—the ‘Middle
Kingdom’—that would infuse China’s approach to foreign
relations when contact with countries beyond her borders
From this centre point, the Zhou maintained a certain
peace for several hundred years before being attacked in
771 BC by ‘barbarians’, the common term for anyone outside
of China’s borders. As the invaders came in from the West,
the reign of the ‘Western Zhou’ ended as the population
moved east to establish a new capital and begin again as
the ‘Eastern Zhou’.
By about 481 BC, the Zhou’s mandate was slowly slipping,
and the Spring & Autumn period gave way to the Warring
States period. Though small battles were fought regularly
during the Spring & Autumn period, the Warring States was
as it sounds—ongoing war between the many states that
collectively were governed by the Zhou.
Some scholars reportedly believe
that the Xia, Shang and Zhou
actually all resided around the
Yellow River valley at the same
time, eventually coming to blows
and conquering each other in
(relatively) rapid succession.